Andy Westlake examines Cullmann’s new hybrid ball head that aims to serve both stills and video shooters

Cullmann-Concept-One-OH4.5V-hybrid-ball-headCullmann Concept One OH4.5V hybrid ball head at a glance:

  • Hybrid photo/video head
  • Friction control
  • Detachable panhandle
  • Weight 650g
  • Load 7kg
  • Price £150
  • Website www.cullmann.de

If you’re a photographer who also likes to shoot video and habitually carries a tripod, then you’ve probably found yourself facinga dilemma over what head to choose. Stills photographers prefer ball-and-socket heads for their flexibility, compact size and relatively light weight, while videographers demand smoothly operating pan-and-tilt heads with a long control handle. On the face of it, these two requirements are mutually incompatible.

Cullmann is trying to square this circle with its new Concept One hybrid ball heads. In photo mode, these behave as perfectly normal ball heads, with a friction control and independently locking panning base. However, by lining up two arrows on the ball and the housing, then twisting a knob on the side of the head, the ball can be locked to move in one axis only. A long panhandle can then be slid into the quick-release platform, in effect transforming the head into a pan-and-tilt unit for video work. It can be quickly reset to stills mode by pulling out the side knob and twisting it back to its photo position.

Cullmann makes these heads in three sizes, with maximum loads ranging from 5kg to 16kg. Photo-only versions are also available without the video mechanism, with a video conversion kit if you change your mind later. On test here is the mid-sized OH4.5V model.

Cullmann Concept One OH4.5V hybrid ball head – key features

Pan scale

The independently locking panning base is marked at 2.5° intervals for panorama work

Quick-release plate

The 9cm-long dovetail plate has a standard ¼in screw and end-stop screws to prevent it sliding off the platform

Base thread

A standard 3⁄8in attachment thread allows use on most brands of tripod

Cullmann Concept One OH4.5V hybrid ball head – verdict

When used for stills, I found that the OH4.5V was solidly made and dependable, and capable of supporting a full-frame SLR with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. The friction control offers a good range of drag, but it has no scale, so can’t be easily reset for different lenses or applications. In video mode, the OH4.5V offers reasonably smooth movements, although it can’t match a specialist fluid head.

A note of caution: the quick release employs an unusual diagonally sliding clamp with a locking lever, which means that it won’t accept many generic Arca Swiss-type plates. Also, the head has no bubble level. Overall, though, this is a pretty ingenious solution for those photographers who also like to shoot video.

SCORE: 4 out of 5

You may also consider:

Uniqball-UBH-35X-ball-head

UniqBall UBH 35X ball head

Price: £270

Website: www.uniqball.eu

With a concentric dual-ball design allowing use as a pan-and-tilt head, the UniqBall UBH 35X is designed more as a levelling head than for video.

FLM-CB38FT

FLM CB-38FT

Price: £195

Website: www.flm-gmbh.de/en/home

Another ball head that can be locked in one axis to give pan-and-tilt only, the CB-38FT weighs just 490g but takes a 25kg load. A quick release is extra.

Manfrotto-391RC2

Manfrotto 391RC2 photo/video pan-and-tilt head

Price: £48

Website: www.manfrotto.co.uk

The 391RC2 is a basic three-way head with Manfrotto’s usual quality that can be used for both photo and video shooting.